Asad Umar smells a rat in Sindh’s higher flour prices

Published January 3, 2022
Federal Minister for Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar addresses a press conference in Karachi on Sunday. — PID
Federal Minister for Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar addresses a press conference in Karachi on Sunday. — PID

• Terms the recently passed LG Act black law
• PPP’s Ghani blames PTI allies for wheat crisis

KARACHI: The strained relations between the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government at the Centre and the Sindh administration of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) took a turn for the worse on Sunday when Islamabad suspected a scam behind higher prices of wheat flour in the province compared to other parts of the country.

The announcement came from the top when federal Minister for Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar called the flour price trend in Sindh strange and said the rates of the commodity were higher only in one province where the “rats” were blamed for the crisis and not the administration.

He vowed that the government would thoroughly investigate the issue and would also move court against the recently passed Sindh Local Government Amendment Act 2021.

“Flour in Sindh is much expensive than Punjab,” he said while addressing a press conference at the party’s headquarters called Insaf House. “Such a difference has been seen for the first time. It is not known who were the rats who ate the wheat. But we won’t let it go. This is a matter of sheer public interest. We have decided to look into the issue. And let me tell you that this issue will also be taken up in the National Assembly.”

He said the federal government was well aware of the challenges and was making every possible effort to minimise the pressure on the common man.

“But this is a man-made crisis and legal action will be taken on the issue of wheat theft in Sindh,” the federal minister said.

At the same time, Mr Umar strongly criticised the Sindh government for passing a “black law” on the local government and vowed that the federal government would challenge it in court.

For the integrity of Pakistan and stability of democracy, an empowered local government system was crucial according to the Constitution, the minister said.

“We will take legal action against the new law,” he said. “We will take recourse to law and judiciary against the new local government law of Sindh. We will take all possible steps for the rights of the people of Sindh.”

71.5m Pakistanis vaccinated

The minister claimed that it was “timely and smart measures” of the government which helped avert the crisis emerged after the coronavirus pandemic had hit the country and, due to the same approach, the vaccination programme was going on successfully across Pakistan.

“Only six months ago, there was a report from an international organisation that said Pakistan would need some 10 years to vaccinate its population,” Mr Umar said. “But let me share with you that we had decided to vaccinate 70 million people by the end of 2021. I am glad to tell you that 71.5m Pakistanis had been vaccinated by Dec 31. We made this possible because the federal government has allocated Rs250 billion for the Covid-19 vaccination programme.”

Accompanied by PTI leaders and assembly members Khurram Sher Zaman, Bilal Ghaffar, Sedrah Imran, Aslam Khan, Aftab Jahangir, Shehzad Qureshi, Saima Nadeem, Dr Sanjay, Rabistan Khan and others, Mr Umar said the federal government provided vaccines for every citizen without any discrimination and criticised the Sindh government for only scoring points against its opponents on the crucial issue of public health. “[PPP chairman] Bilawal Zardari’s sister [Aseefa Zardari] tweeted that the province was barred from buying vaccines,” he said. “I want to ask which law prevents Sindh from buying vaccines? What is this law about which even legal experts do not know? If there is any such law, we will abolish it. People can no more be made fool for vested and political interests.”

‘PTI allies responsible’

Meanwhile, Sindh Information Minis­ter Saeed Ghani came up with a counterattack and said it was allies of the PTI government which had created this wheat crisis in the province and the PPP government had already taken up the issue. “It was a PPP minister who had taken notice of the wheat theft,” he said in a statement.

“The Sindh government has already written to NAB for an inquiry into this issue. It has in fact identified the thieves and they are all those who are in good books of [Prime Minister] Imran Khan and his allies,” he said.

Published in Dawn, January 3rd, 2022

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